The Evangelical Debate About Adam and Eve

Over the past decade, we’ve seen numerous instances of evangelical elites arguing — and buying into the argument — that the genetic data require us to reject 2,000+ year-old doctrines about the existence of a historical Adam and Eve. Those arguments have now turned out to be based upon bad science. The philosophy that it’s wrong for evangelicals to challenge evolutionary claims led many down a needless and most unfortunate path.

For those who have ears to hear it, the lesson is simple. Evangelical intellectuals in certain circles often assume that evolutionary science is correct, or at least should be treated as an immovable rock which should neither be questioned nor touched, lest one bring embarrassment on the church. But this assumption is false and the behaviors and fears that follow from it are unnecessary. Sometimes it’s claims made in the name of evolutionary science that are false. Even highly qualified, well-respected, and well-intentioned and well-credentialed evangelical scientists who promote TE and EC to the church can get things wrong.

Whether driven by a quest for certainty or a desire to please secular elites or something else, some evangelical leaders eagerly embraced ideas inimical to Christian orthodoxy, ideas that have not been established by good science. These leaders rejected important doctrines because of what was tantamount to junk science, and influenced many others to do likewise.

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It’s a real problem when you’re co-opted by “Evolution News”.


It certainly is.

That’s why more scientists aligned with evolutionary science should be involved in getting these questions addressed in an honest and rigorous way. Remember: May More Scientists Care About Adam and Eve

When we sit on the sidelines when other scientists overstate the evidence, it can erode trust. It’s a good thing that at least some of the scientists involved in the corrective affirm evolutionary science.

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I also want to add that I have no problem with honest challenges and questions to evolutionary claims. Evolutionary claims are usually grounded in good evidence, and have no need to be protected from scrutiny.


I’m not sure there’s trust to begin with. EN, for example, bases trust on whether or not you agree with EN (stealth creationism, more or less) and tries to erode any trust their readers may have in “evolutionists”. Any errors made by said evolutionists are used as excuses, not reasons.

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@swamidass, could you explain this claim? What are these supposed 32 lineages? Where could that have come from? And how do they dispose of the clearly noted 6 lineages in that paper we discussed a while ago?

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There seems to be a reference to two things:

  1. There isn’t 32 lineages of transspecies variation; it’s far lower.

  2. Even if it’s greater than 4, convergent evolution is an alternate explanation for which there is positive evidence.

Of course, we’ve gone over the legitimacy and limits of those claims, and settled on the idea that the non coding sequences in the vicinity of HLA needs to be studied. No one has done this yet.

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I’m interested in Craig’s book as an old earth creationist, I’m not overly committed to a specific model regarding the historical Adam and Eve. I just would like to see more of a dialogue between Intelligent design and evolution advocates

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Who ever said there were 32 lineages?

Is that what they say or is that you talking? I don’t think it’s true.

Needs? I don’t think so. It would be nice.

Perhaps is something you can take up with @glipsnort. I’ve already noted that it’s weak evidence that might rule out a single couple bottleneck. Seems your argument might be with him. But WLCs/Gauger’s/RTBs models doesn’t demand there was not interbreeding, so not sure why it matters so much any ways.

Why? What does he say about HLA alleles?

Then it isn’t a bottleneck of two. And how do they deal with the evidence that H. sapiens is related to other primates? Were A&E created or did they descent from a larger population? It matters because they’re proposing a genetic, not just genealogical first couple, and descent of A&E from a population conflicts with Genesis.

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The quote is from Ann Gauger, “The Science of Adam and Eve,” in Science and Human Origins , by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin (Discovery Institute Press, 2012), p. 120. – which is available online from EN here (if the link doesn’t work, search for “The Science of Adam and Eve” on Google Scholar).


You’re already giving up the farm when you accept and use the pseudoscientific framing of referring to a large set of strong theories as a mere “claim” and only mention the use of evidence retrospectively.

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Turns out that Gauger got the “32 lineages” claim from Francisco Ayala, “The myth of Eve: Molecular biology and human origins,” Science 270 (1995): 1930–1936. But Ayala didn’t get this number from phylogenetic analysis but from a molecular clock assumption, and those alleles are not shared with other primates. She talks about the actual shared alleles (though she forgets one; it’s 6, not 5).

And she isn’t talking about a bottleneck, really. She’s talking about separate creation of humans, unrelated to other primates: “It may be, though, that as we continue to investigate our own genomes, the Darwinian explanation for our similarity with chimps— namely, common descent—will evaporate.” This is an explicitly creationist claim.

And she either has no understanding of incomplete lineage sorting or gene loss or is suppressing that understanding for nefarious purposes.

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You misunderstand me. That’s not what I was doing at all. :slight_smile:

Then maybe you should make more of an effort to make yourself more understandable.

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Let me try. Perhaps he’s saying that we should not automatically assume that everything a creationist says is false and everything an “evolutionist” says is true, but we should judge claims on the basis of evidence. In this particular case, a couple of evolutionary biologists (or something) made a couple of incorrect claims, which a creationist put the worst possible spin on. The claims were still incorrect. I would quibble with the “honest challenges” part, as the creationists in question would not appear to have been honest.


Yes, looking back over it, I notice that Gauger stated:

In the 1990s a population biologist named Francisco Ayala set out to challenge the idea of two individual first parents, using sequence information from one of the HLA genes.

This reference to “two individual first parents” certainly makes it seems that Ayala was talking about a separately created Adam and Eve. However to my surprise, when I looked at Ayala’s paper, I discovered that he was explicitly talking about “The Mitochondrial Eve” and “The ZFY Adam”, and appears to make no mention of anything resembling Gauger’s “first parents”.

Given that even talking about Mitochondrial Eve and ZFY Adam would appear to get a scientist misrepresented, it would seem to be a hardy scientist who would willingly dive into the theological snakepit that is the historicity of Adam and Eve, particularly as any benefits of that engagement would seem nebulous at best.


descent of A&E from a population conflicts with traditional interpretations of Genesis.

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And I’m sure that scientists will be absolutely delighted to be dragged into a debate as to what the archaic Hebrew wording in Genesis actually means. :face_with_raised_eyebrow: